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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Danes 'to tighten' immigration curbs
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (centre) leads the new government of Liberals and Conservatives
The centre-right coalition depends on the support of the far-right
The Danish parliament is expected to vote through a series of contentious measures on Friday to restrict immigration and cut aid to refugees.

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Rasmussen denies his policies are xenophobic
The house had been due to decide on the bill on Thursday, but debate became so heated that the president of the house postponed a vote for 24 hours.

With the support of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's right-wing government, which drafted the legislation, anticipates that the bill will be passed.

The Danish vote comes as countries across the European Union mull a crackdown on immigrants.

Italy's parliament continues a debate on fresh legislation on Friday, while on Thursday, EU interior ministers moved towards creating a new European border police force to curb illegal immigration, and the UK unveiled plans to deport thousands of asylum seekers.

All EU-member states have also been involved in a police operation to catch those smuggling illegal immigrants through airports, it was disclosed on Friday.

A total of 34 people were arrested in the four-week crackdown - codenamed Rio II - which was co-ordinated from the headquarters of the EU law enforcement organisation, Europol, in The Hague. Most migrants intercepted were from China, Ecuador, Angola, Brazil and Nigeria, a Europol spokesman said.

Campaign pledge

Under the Danish proposals, refugees would only be granted permanent residence after seven years, instead of the current three. The criteria for qualifying as an asylum seeker would also be toughened.

Full entitlement to welfare benefits would also be deferred to encourage refugees to get jobs.

The minimum age at which anyone can marry a foreigner will be raised from 18 years to 24, ostensibly to discourage arranged marriages.

The government of Denmark, a country once famed for its liberal stance in immigration, promised the changes when it won elections in November.


What does the refugee minister call 100,000 refugees on the moon? A good idea

Kamal Qureshi
Opposition MP
It insists that the proposals will merely bring Denmark into line with other European nations and has dismissed charges it has been influenced by the far-right, which has threatened to pull its support for the coalition if it does not get a say in the country's immigration policy.

Minister for refugees and immigrants Bertel Haarder said Denmark would be "very close to the European average" once they are approved.

But human rights groups have criticised the laws as too harsh. During a heated parliamentary debate on Thursday, Kamal Qureshi of the Socialist People's Party, ridiculed the proposals.

"What does the refugee minister call a refugee on the moon? Yes, 'an astronaut'," he said. "What does the refugee minister call 100,000 refugees on the moon? 'A good idea'."

'Pandering to the right'

The bill currently under discussion in Italy will mean that only immigrants who have a job waiting in the country will receive permission to enter.


The European Union cannot be a fortress but must be a democratic open place which respects human rights and the rights of minorities

Greek Foreign Ministry
It also requires all immigrants from non-EU countries to be fingerprinted, an issue which has been denounced as "xenophobic" and "discriminatory" by the centre-left opposition.

Elsewhere in Rome on Thursday, EU ministers discussed plans to deploy a joint border force to protect Europe from immigrants.

But several observers expressed concerns at what they see as moves to turn Europe into a fortress, and warned that continually identifying immigration as a problem, rather than a potential resource, could only benefit the far-right.

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Europe
27 Nov 01 | Europe
22 Aug 01 | Europe
09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
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